Convention Connection

Your next job may be as close as a professional conference. Here's how to work it on the job fair circuit.

for job hunters who don’t, she advises that you turn to the company’s Website or log on to a search engine. “It’s best to know something about the company [before you go to the conference], because at least you’ll know what they’re working on, to explain your skills set better . . . to coincide with what their needs are,” says Allison. Balun advises that one way to find out insider information is “to contact the recruiter [before the conference] to find out the culture. However, you must explain that you’re a true job seeker, not a headhunter, and it’s best to go through the HR department as a courtesy.”

Researching the company’s position is one thing. Researching your own is quite another. Do a self-assessment. Read books like The Mid-Career Tune-Up: 10 New Habits for Keeping Your Edge in Today’s Fast-Paced Workplace by William Salmon and Rosemary Salmon (AMACOM Books, $17.95), which is chock-full of practical tips on self-assessment, such as effectively communicating to others and balancing time and resources. Try your hand at the exercises throughout the book to figure out where your strengths and weakness lie as an employee, such as the section “Balance Multiple Demands on Your Time and Resources,” which discusses time wasters and solutions to rectify them. The tips are designed for those on the job, but can certainly transfer over to those on the job hunt.

“I had a 30-second to one-minute spiel about myself to say this is who I am and this is what I’m interested in,” says Carr, who entered Honeywell through a rotational program for new M.B.A.’s that typically lasts from two to four years.

Many Fortune 500 companies offer programs that allow candidates “to rotate in different functional areas throughout the company,” says Carr, who identifies sales opportunities for the company o
n environmental control equipment. One such device regulates the air you breathe when you step on to a plane. “Whether they’re a targeted company or not, make sure you have that short story ready, and know what skills and attributes you want to target,” he says.

Allison sums up how she got her recent job: “When I went [to the conference last year], my plan was to find a job. So I kept my focus, did a lot of homework before I went, made contacts ahead of time and had several interviews set up before I got there.” Some professional conferences have a prescreening process where candidates can have their résumés sent to the companies they’re interested in. In turn, companies that are interested will contact recruits and set up interviews. Contact your association to see if this option is available.

Many of our experts agree that first impressions are lasting impressions. “You must come prepared for the interview. You must be punctual and be able to articulate,” says Leonard Small, chairman, National Organization for the Professional Development of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers ( in Cincinnati. “If you have or are perceived to have a lackadaisical attitude about your career, remember they’re

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